Waterford diocese unable to pay priests' Christmas wages due to major decrease in donations

The Catholic diocese of Waterford and Lismore has said it did not have enough money to pay its priests' wages at Christmas due to a major falloff in the amount of donations collected from parishioners.

Administrators already had to borrow from diocesan funds to pay the 60 or more priests last September and had to raise money from parish reserves again in December for the last quarterly salary payment.

Now they are waiting for collection returns to see if there will be enough for the next due payment in March or if diocesan funds will have to be used again.

There are three envelope collections each year which are supposed to fund the priests' salaries - at Christmas, Easter and in the autumn - but the amounts being raised by this method have dwindled in recent years.

The customary "basket collection" is used for church maintenance and upkeep and has always been kept separate to the "envelope collection" used to pay priests.

"There was no money at Christmas and we had to get €5,000 from each parish out of parish funds," Waterford and Lismore spokesman Fr Liam Power said.

"Long term, it's not sustainable. It's seriously depleted, that fund."

Priests in Waterford and Lismore receive a basic salary of €21,000 per year and this can be added to by up to €5,000 per year because of allowances for certain ceremonies.

Fr Power was on WLR FM's Deise Today programme to discuss the issue of using contactless card payments to collect money from parishioners in churches.

He said money collected by envelope hasn't been enough in recent times to make up the priests' salaries.

It is possible that each parish will be set a minimum amount of money to raise, to ensure the payments can be maintained.

Each parish should be contributing enough to the common fund to support its own priests. If not, maybe they would have to contribute from the basket collection.

Fr Power said that "over a number of years, it [envelope collection] has seriously depleted."

There are a number of reasons why fundraising from traditional sources is down, he said.

A decrease in the number of people attending Mass and increase in the number of people who have turned away from the church and younger people who do attend Mass from time to time for special occasions or funerals not being in the habit of making contributions.

He accepted that scandals within the Catholic church in recent decades have "undermined our credibility and our moral authority" and said many people's attitude to the church has "radically changed" in the last few years.

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